Many of the 300 or so boxers scheduled to compete in the Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions this week at the Salt Palace Convention Center will turn professional shortly after the event ends, including West Valley City’s Larry Gomez.
But few, if any, of the amateurs who hope to make it to Saturday’s championship round can say they stepped away from the sport for more than four years, as the 20-year-old Gomez did before returning to it about a year ago.
“I had to do it,” said Gomez, in the 152-pound division. “Boxing is in my blood.”
It is also part of his heritage, and he sees his comeback as a way to honor the memory of his father, Joe Gomez, who died at the age of 30 when Larry was just 9 years old. After a standout amateur career, Joe Gomez turned pro in 1997 and was 2-0 before an illness forced him to quit.
Larry first stepped into the ring when he was 7, and compiled a 43-8 record over the course of the next eight years. But he suddenly walked away from the sport when he was 15, stunning many in the Utah boxing community who figured he was on his way to stardom.
“I just wasn’t into it, really,” he said. “I had lost the desire.”
At the beginning of last year, however, shortly after becoming a father to baby daughter Mariah, Gomez got the itch again. He believes it is the wish of his late father that he build on the family legacy.
“I am mainly doing it for my dad,” he said. “He wanted me to box more than anything else. My comeback is for him. I mainly thought about what he would want, and that would be for me to come back.”
So far, it has been quite a comeback.
Gomez is 7-0 since returning, bumping his career record to 50-8. Five of those wins have been by technical knockout (referee stops bout), including a first-round TKO in the Golden Gloves state tournament and two third-round stoppages in the Rocky Mountain Regional tournament, where he qualified for nationals, along with five other Utahns.
Trainers at the 2-year-old K.O. Boxing Gym in West Valley City, where Gomez works out 3-4 hours a day, seven days a week, say Gomez is extraordinarily powerful for a man his size. The right-hander weighed around 165 pounds a few months ago, but has been able to shed the 13 pounds to get to his current weight division without losing his power.
“I’ve got a pretty good left hook,” Gomez said. “I am a fighter that always goes for the knockout. I am an aggressive fighter, always moving forward the whole time. You will rarely see me back up.”
When he steps into the ring, fans will notice a tattoo on Gomez’s shoulder that honors his father: a pair of boxing gloves with the years of his birth and death, 1972 and 2002.
“Every time I am in that ring, and every time I train, I think about him,” Gomez said.
Gomez represents Utah’s best chance of producing only its second national Golden Gloves champion, but he is not the only talented Utahn in the tournament, nor the only one boxing in the memory of a deceased father.
Isaac Aguilar, the 123-pounder, was just 9 months old when his father, Victor Aguilar, was murdered in a downtown Salt Lake City restaurant where he worked as a pie chef. Aguilar lost to TKO’s Alan Leyba in the state tournament, and Leyba was unopposed in the regional. However, Leyba is not eligible to compete in nationals and Aguilar was given the spot last week.
Francisco Lopez (132), Danny Galloway (165), Andrew Scott (201) and Jesse West (heavyweight) will also represent Utah as the state hosts the nationals for the second time in four years with six accomplished boxers. Wyoming’s Abram Martinez (141) and Nathaniel Kinsman (178) round out the eight-member Rocky Mountain Region team. The region does not have entrants in the 108- and 114-pound divisions.
Golden Gloves boxing
P National Tournament of Champions
Where • Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City
When • Monday through Saturday, bouts begin at 6 p.m. nightly
Who • Nearly 300 of the top amateur boxers in the country, competing in 10 weight divisions
Rocky Mountain Region
Golden Gloves team
123 lbs. • Isaac Aguilar, Utah
132 lbs. • FranciscoLopez, Utah
141 lbs. • AbramMartinez, Wyoming
152 lbs. • Larry Gomez, Utah
165 lbs. • DannyGalloway, Utah
178 lbs. • NathanielKinsman, Wyoming
201 lbs. • Andrew Scott, Utah
201+ lbs. • Jesse West, Utah
The region is not fielding entrants in the 108- and 114-pound divisions